CWDC Adjusts Staffing Structure to Better Support Work, Advance Economic Recovery

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Feb. 8, 2022 - The Colorado Workforce Development Council (CWDC) is evolving its staffing model to best execute against the objectives for Colorado's workforce and economic recovery in a manner that strengthens its work and aligns work units. In pursuit of this goal, the CWDC has promoted Renise Walker to assistant director of systems innovation and Britta Blodgett to assistant director of communications and collaboration.  

Walker will be responsible for management and alignment of the CWDC’s initiatives to lead and support industry-led networks, develop and strengthen career pathway systems, and implement stimulus-funded initiatives, as well as driving innovation and thought leadership in the talent development landscape. 

Blodgett will set strategy, design and implement strategic communications initiatives, and manage the Colorado READY Collaborative for the CWDC.

To effectively implement stimulus-funded initiatives, CWDC has also hired additional team members to ensure that these funds benefit as many of Colorado’s workers and employers as possible now and in the future. Individuals throughout our state have experienced a crisis in the past two years, and this new staffing structure will support the best possible response.

“John F. Kennedy once said ‘When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters – one represents danger and the other, opportunity.’ To me, this quote means that times of crisis can spur positive change,” said Lee Wheeler-Berliner, managing director of the CWDC. “We have an opportunity to build back stronger in meaningful ways. The expertise, background, and experience of our new and existing staff will help us do so.”

The CWDC’s work will be guided by insights gleaned from the organization’s annual Talent Pipeline Report, which notes that, since April 2020, labor force demand in Colorado has recovered at a rapid pace, with the total number of job openings surpassing unemployment in May 2021. 

While Colorado’s economic recovery has made strides in recent months, much work remains: the report also emphasizes the need to support small businesses, which have been impacted by the global pandemic and who now face challenges regarding rising premiums, disrupted international supply chains, and a constrained labor supply. Another important issue to address is the pandemic’s disproportionate effects on women, especially women of color, who have experienced the largest decreases in work participation.

Stimulus staff include:

Bob Brasser, Senior Consultant, Stimulus Programs: Brasser and his team are tasked with ensuring that the Work Force Innovation Act funds are used quickly and effectively to support and enhance talent development efforts statewide. During his long career in the private sector, Brasser held leadership roles within large and small companies in the manufacturing and service sectors. He also worked as a consultant providing strategic and tactical plans for start-ups and mid-sized companies. Brasser holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in business from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. 

James Warren, Consultant for Stimulus Public Partners: Warren works with the American Rescue Plan funds to empower public partners across the State of Colorado. His work includes creating a career navigation program for the state’s workforce centers and administering grants to nonprofits. Before joining CWDC in December, James was pursuing his master’s in Public Administration, which he received from the Cornell Institute of Public Affairs in May. 

Bobbie Wolfe, Industry Consultant, Stimulus Programs: Wolfe oversees stimulus projects involving industry partners, sector partnerships, employers, and the entities that support these stakeholders, providing key support to all partners involved. Currently, she is developing applications to engage with trade associations in a way that will help develop innovative workforce training solutions; she’s also designing a funding opportunity to hire regional sector partnership conveners. Previously, she worked on CWDC’s Lives Empowered initiative, which focused on developing regional career pathway systems for the retail sector. Wolfe graduated from Colorado State University with a bachelor’s degree in Industrial-Organizational Psychology and a minor in Business Administration, and grew her love for and knowledge of local politics and workforce development as a workforce vitality specialist with the Boulder Chamber of Commerce. 

Colleen Wohnoutka, Stimulus Program Specialist: In her current role, Wohnoutka focuses on the funding received through House Bill 21-1264 that will be distributed via grants to aid in the economic recovery. Her position is to support the team with project implementation, meeting management, and stakeholder engagement. Like Wolfe, Wohnoutka previously worked on the Lives Empowered initiative, focusing on establishing and supporting retail sector partnerships. Colleen has several years of prior experience with retail and sales, working with companies such as Walmart, Walgreens, and Schwan’s Home Food Service. She has an MBA with a concentration in project management. 

Amy Chambers, Operations Program Specialist: In her role, Chambers coordinates all aspects of stimulus funding including project documentation, monitoring, and reporting on project status and accomplishments. Chambers is thrilled to be a member of a team of individuals dedicated to enhancing and sustaining a skills-based talent development network in Colorado. Chambers holds a JD with a certification in public policy from Catholic University Columbus School of Law and a bachelor’s degree from Gonzaga University. 

The positions are funded by HB21-1264, which directs $75 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). $60 million of these funds will be used and distributed by the CWDC. Titled “State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds” (SLFRF), the funds will be used to provide assistance, including job training, to households and unemployed workers; strengthen and create programs, services, and other assistance for populations disproportionately affected by the pandemic; provide aid to impacted industries, small businesses, and nonprofits through related education and job training services; and more.